अनिल एकलव्य ⇔ Anil Eklavya

April 25, 2013

A Great Friend of Humanity: In Praise of a Mere Utensil

Filed under: Uncategorized — anileklavya @ 3:33 am

To be more precise, not just an utensil (though it can serve as that), but a device. No, not an I.E. Device, but a common cooking device.

One of the latest targets of the newest witch hunts is something called a pressure cooker. Photos of a destroyed pressure cooker have been all over the screens and papers of the world. They are almost presented as the photos of a monster.

The other day, that great conman of the 21st century who holds the title of the President of the US of A (not that most of the rest are any better), was giving another one of his precious speeches in which he said solemnly and seriously that the surviving accused —

Let us repeat it together: The surviving – accused. Accused.

Repeat the last part once more: Accused.

Or, alternatively: The suspect.

Or, another alternative: The alleged perpetrator.

Repeat the second last part: Alleged.

(This repetition excercise is courtesy another famous president, famous at least in my part of the world).

– So the great conman president was telling the world that any time bombs are used against innocent civilians (presumably for political purposes, though he didn’t say that), it is an act of terror. Two days later, I heard on the news that the accused has been charged with “using weapons of mass destruction”.

For a moment I actually thought that I was in South Park.

But South Park is a much saner place.

A brave journalist (citing the above statement) did, in fact, question the White House spokesman (shame! shame! what an office to hold!) about whether the US considers its bombing in Afghanistan carried out only a few days earlier, that killed 14 children and a woman, i.e., innocent civilians, (presumably for political purposes, thought she didn’t say so) an act of terror. The spokesman gave the kind of moronic reply that only spokesmen, PR guys and morons can give.

Fifteen is five times three. If you are allowed to say that two plus two is four.

Anyway, all that is not very relevant to the topic of this article. The theme, or rather the protagonist, of this article is the utensil, the cooking device called a pressure cooker. Animals can’t speak for themselves, but they can still express some feelings and reactions. A pressure cooker cannot even do that. It is not even a living being. It is not even an entity. It is a type that represents individual pressure cookers such as the one you have been seeing (in a mutilated condition) for the last so many days.

But the need of the hour is that we talk about a type as an entity. Sometimes that is necessary. For example, we talk about the common man. Almost everyone does. At least they do in India, where I am from, which is very relevant to the current theme. They do, even though there is no ‘the common man’, as many wise men keep pointing out. Still, it sometimes makes sense to pretend that there is. Similarly, we can talk about ‘the pressure cooker’, when we are actually talking about a type. And it is more justified in this case, because ‘the pressure cooker’ is much more like ‘a pressure cooker’ than ‘the common man’ is like ‘a common man’.

So, let’s get on with it.

Pressure Cooker for Dummies

What is a pressure cooker? It is a cooking device that is shaped like an utensil (it is an utensil, at least a part of it is an utensil). It is used to cook a wide variety of home cooked food (and even some non-home cooked). It is an utensil with a lid. The top of the utensil and the bottom of the lid are made in such a way that the lid can be screwed on to the utensil that holds the item to be cooked. The lid requires a washer (a ‘gasket’) to be inserted in it, before it can be screwed on to the utensil. The washer makes the pressure cooker air tight: It prevents the water vapour from escaping from the utensil. The part of the science behind the pressure cooker is based on the famous Gas Laws, which are primarily based on the (very aptly named) Boyl’s Law and the Charles’ Law. One of the basic ideas is that as the temperature of the item in the cooker increases, since the volume and the mass remain constant (as the water vapour cannot escape), the pressure goes up. High pressure means faster cooking. But that is not all. The other basic idea is that water boils at higher temperature at higher pressure. That means that, inside the pressure cooker, since the water boils at higher temperature, the cooking items can be heated up to a higher temperature, which also greatly helps cooking.

So what can happen if the pressure cooker is left unattended and the pressure goes too high? Not to worry. Every pressure cooker’s anatomy (and physiology) consists of another important part, that is, the safety valve. When the pressure reaches a carefully set limit for which it was designed, the safety valve lets some of the steam out, thereby avoiding the possibility of the cooker being blown up. Just like a circuit breaker prevents an electric device from catching fire.

Pressure Cooker for Grown Ups (Reader Discretion Strongly Advised)

Why is it important to defend, indeed, praise this device about which the current consensus seems to be that it is dangerous device? A weapon of mass destruction!

Take a fucking sanity check, you morons!

The pressure cooker is a great friend of humanity.

To digress just a little bit, not everyone has been calling to execute the pressure cooker. There have been many who have defended it. However, sadly, some of them have put it in the same category as guns. They are saying, they are in fact petitioning, that: “Don’t ban pressure cookers. Don’t ban guns.”

Now, in an ideal world, I would like not to have any guns or bombs or anything of the sort. But since we don’t live in an ideal world, I am prepared to discuss why guns should not be banned. Still, even in practice, in the present world, I personally favour gun control, based on common sense. But the point is that I am prepared to discuss whether they should be banned or not. I am unlikely to change my opinion though, for reasons on which we can’t spend the precious space here.

But putting guns and pressure cookers in the same category? No way! They have hardly anything in common.

I won’t talk about guns, but I will about the poor, much maligned pressure cooker that is such a boon to a large population of the world. And to the planet.

Here is why.

Because of the way it is designed and the science behind it, it is not only quite safe to use, but is actually a device that is beneficial to humanity in many different ways.

It is a great energy conservator. What would have required 10x of energy to cook, needs only 3x or may be just one 1x, depending on what you are cooking. Not exact numbers, but good indicators.

It is a great option for saving time. The same numbers apply as for energy, more or less.

Since it keeps everything inside it, it serves two other important purposes. First, less smell escapes, so that the neighbours will feel less envy. Or disgust, depending on the tastes and customs. Second, since less smell escapes, it is preserved in the cooked food. The food tastes and smells better. Now, some might not agree with the last part and there are indeed charms associated with, say, cooking on an old style wood-burning ‘choolha’, but such things are hardly practical in the cities.

It is also not very expensive. It costs less than a microwave. At least it does in the places where it is used the most.

And where is it used the most? That is a very pertinent and, dare I say, a burning question.

It is used in the poorest countries of the world. It is used, for example, in the whole of South Asia. So much so, that no South Asian kitchen (provided there is a kitchen and the kitchen owners can afford to buy it) is complete without a pressure cooker. If there is any one single item most commonly associated with cooking in modern South Asia, it is the cook’s best friend, the pressure cooker.

And I believe it is used in many other parts of the world. In countries of the South. The East. The Third World.

Plotting to deprive the Third World (and parts of the Second World) of the one common luxury that it has? It is criminal and diabolical, to say the least.

In the First World countries too, the pressure cooker might be one of the common denominators among the people whose origins lie in the the Third World.

There is always a need to find innovative ways to express as well as practice some time honoured traditions like racism and discrimination. An enemy has to be found. The enemy is mostly based on the race or some such criterion. But the enemy has to appear as race-neutral for reasons of political correctness. This time it is the poor pressure cooker.

Of course, as indicated above, there are vast numbers in the Third World who can’t even afford to buy a pressure cooker. But those who can, do. Because it is an essential item in the kitchen, often the first cooking utensil that is bought when a house starts becoming a home.

The pressure cooker saves money for people who earn relatively less (and even for those who earn a lot). It conserves energy, thereby reducing the greenhouse gas emission, the CO2 footprint. It saves time and thereby makes people more productive. It encourages better nutrition because those who are lazy can still quickly cook something if they have a pressure cooker at hand.

And to top it all, the pressure cooker’s existence is perhaps one of the few (or may be the only) redeeming features of that infernal activity called bauxite mining.

Take a look inside your girehbaans, you murdering scoundrels!

But pressure cooker can even be made from steel. And when it is, it not only deprives the bauxite industry of its redemption, it can be also be used with an induction heater. The pair together save even more energy.

The only negative side that I can think of is related to washing it. Washing it is somewhat more cumbersome than washing a microwave glass bowl.

I have been living alone for the last decade. I am known to be very negligent about food. So people, that is, family members, keep asking me about food. I have an elder brother. I have met him rarely in more than a decade, but whenever we meet, he advises me about using the pressure cooker to quickly cook something to ensure that the body gets at least the minimum that it needs. Before coming to France, and also when he once came to France after I came here, he stressed this point. He even advises me about how to use it in such a way that the neighbours (of the First World) are not scared by the (safety valve’s) whistle that the pressure lets out from time to time. (In India, we are all very much used to it). He does that, of course, because he is concerned about my nutrition and health. He is a highly qualified doctor by training. And a very good one. And he is telling from his experience, because he has travelled much more than me and has lived in even more places than me.

I haven’t followed his advise here. But that is at my own peril. The point is that I know the value of the pressure cooker. If I had it here, I would have eaten better.

So what about the dangers it is purported to pose to the community? Well, there can indeed be rare occasions when an old pressure cooker ‘blows up’. It did actually happen once when I was a teenager, almost in my sight. Fortunately, no one was injured. But that didn’t stop us from using it.

When I bought my first microwave some years ago, I once put something in it — a ‘paapad’ and what happened? It (the ‘paapad’) caught fire, which was easily put out as I was right in front of it at that time. But that didn’t stop me from using it. And everyone knows what can happen if you put a metal utensil in a microwave, something much more likely to happen in countries where the microwave is still a novelty.

Earlier it was the pagdi. Then it was the burka. Now they have got hold of the pressure cooker. They keep getting nastier and nastier.

While pagdi and burka were specific to certain communities (also from the Third World), the pressure cooker casts a much wider net. And, as detailed above, there is hardly anything rational to said against it. And a lot that can be said in favour of it.

Don’t let them get away with it.

A Very Boring and Unoriginal Excercise for the Reader

Who used the world’s first most famous weapon of mass destruction against innocent civilians? The one and only time it was used?

Which countries used chemical weapons extensively against each other, so much so that they had to be banned?

Who possesses the most weapons in the world and sells most of them? Each infinitely more dangerous than a pressure cooker BOMB, let alone a mere pressure cooker?

(The Writer is evading the question about who buys most of those dangerous weapons).

In the last one month, or one year, or one decade, or one century, how many have been killed by a pressure cooker BOMB, let alone a mere pressure cooker, a cooking device?

And how many have been killed in the last month, just one month alone by US made and US delivered BOMBS (with some other former empires pitching in), which had nothing whatsoever to do with the pressure cooker?

Given the quality of what is shown on TVs these days, if someone were to make a bomb using one of them (out of mere frustration from watching them), should TVs be banned?

(If you say that they should be banned anyway, even if they are not used as a bomb, you have the writer’s sympathy).

Just a Few Questions for the Really Grown Ups

Can TVs and other such devices be used as weapons of mass destruction? Even without them being used as BOMBS or even as detonators? Are they already being used as such? If yes, should they be banned?

Who is using them?

April 23, 2013

It’s Back with a Vengeance

Filed under: Uncategorized — anileklavya @ 8:02 am

The horrible night (and evening) is back again. It’s back with a vengeance.

The same symptoms. Right according a scripts. Or a chemical.

You eat or (more usually) drink something and soon they are on you. All over you.

A vague pain starts in the stomach. The pain turns to a burning sensation.

The burning sensation, the inflammation spreads to the whole abdomen.

Pretty soon, your tongue seems to be on fire. It is not just the tip of the tongue, as in some other kind of problems.

Then it worsens. The whole upper body seems to be on fire. From the inside.

No other word can do it justice. Torture. That is the word, much as I try to avoid uttering (or writing) it.

(Any word used too much loses its meaning).

Anguish is also a good word, but perhaps not strong enough.

Some of the inflammation reaches the head. Fire seems to be running through your veins.

Everything else remains fine. You can think. You can even work, that is, if you manage to bear the pain and the burning.

Then there are the palpitations, of course. They add the terror that is hard to ignore.

The inflammation in the throat and on the tongue and the chest means that you feel as if you are choking, so eating (or sometimes even drinking) becomes difficult.

Apart from the pain and the inflammation, there is a real breathing problem. Which makes everything worse.

You can take a pain killer and an anti-inflammation pill, but it doesn’t help much.

Sometimes, the heartbeat goes wild too.

For the last few weeks, it had stopped. I don’t know why. In fact, I was feeling unusually well for the last two or three days. Today, it has started again.

As I am writing this, I am experiencing perhaps the worst of such cases so far.

I need to sleep, because I didn’t sleep much last night, or I should say this early morning.

Tomorrow, I have an appointment with a bank official. It is very important that I meet him tomorrow, but I am not sure if I will be able to make it.

I had met him some days ago. I have to meet him again because of a series of events that have taken place over the last few days.

Since I will be leaving France at the end of this month, I have to transfer my savings over the year to my Indian account.

It has turned into a nightmarish adventure that seems to have no end.

And I thought it was very easy to do. As a matter of fact, it is very easy. In theory. With internet banking.

The problem is that, to use the Internet banking for this purpose, I have to have my mobile phone number registered for something that is called a CERTICODE service. It is meant for better security.

The problems started because, after the initial period in France, when I got my proper mobile connection, I asked the bank to register the new number. It turned out that the number change was made only for certain kind of messages, not for this CERTICODE service.

I found this out only about a few weeks ago. I then started my rounds of the bank. At the counter, they told me that this can be done by calling their IVR (Interactive Voice Response) customer service number, not from the bank.

There was an Indian lady there, or someone of Indian or South Asian origin, who knew English (she did speak to me in English briefly and perfectly). But she pretended that she didn’t understand English and could only understand French. She talked to me mostly in French, which I could not understand. One of the other ladies there actually asked her why she was not speaking to me in English, but she evaded the question.

She did however (politely) made me meet the bank official assigned to me. He seemed annoyed at this meeting without an appointment, but he met me anyway. I explained the problem to him. He said, no problem. He checked my id card, as he is required to do. He opened the database and I could partially see the monitor. He said, yes, the CERTICODE number has not been changed. But he did not do anything in front of me. I was expecting that he would just type in the new number and save it. (He was expected to give me the receipt for the same too, as I understand, which he did not give). I noticed that he hadn’t changed anything, so I politely mentioned that this (the number still there on the screen) is my old number. He said, no problem, it is done. Since you have got it done with me, it is secure. I took him at his word, thinking that perhaps he was in hurry for something and he will change it later.

Several days gone by and the number did not change. In my Internet banking account, there was still the same old CERTICODE number.

Finally I went to the bank again. This time there was a person who did speak English. Initially he said it can’t be done. You have to call the customer care. He also said at first that the window (guichet) is closed, though others were being served. I stood there. Stood my gound, you could say. Then he asked me to wait at another counter. Finally he asked me for my bank card and he did change the number and give me a receipt. The number change takes 48 hours to become effective. That is one of the causes for the worry.

The same person had done a similar change many months ago, when I initially opted for the CERTICODE service, which is required for using the bank card as a credit card and for some other purposes such as money transfer.

I did call the customer care number, which I have problem using because — I understand spoken French very little. But, as if by a miracle, I got connected once to someone who spoke English well. I asked him about the number change. He said he can’t do it because he will need to check my id, which made sense. He said I will have to go to my bank to get it done. He said they told you that? I said yes. He said then I should change my bank. I don’t know what he meant by that.

When I mentioned to someone about the problems I was facing in getting my social security number and my health insurance, which I have given up on, I was told sarcastically that I should move to Britain. I have no idea what he meant by that.

Anyway, meanwhile, I was starting to wind up some things as I did not have much time left. I have one broadband connection and I had one mobile connection. Both from the same company. According to their guidelines, to close the accounts, you have to send a written letter to them by post.

For both connections, there are two options. One is that you want to terminate the connection immediately at the receipt of the letter of cancellation at their office. The other is that you opt for closing at the end of the month (for broadband) or at the end of the billing cycle (for the mobile connection: the date for me was 4th May, a safe date, as I would be leaving earlier).

For the broadband connection, there was a PDF file that I could generate and just fill in and enter my name etc. For the moblile connection, there was no such letter. So I just used the same format and language as the one for the broadband connection. In both cases, I (obviously) specifically opted for the end of the month option, not immediate termination.

Why on earth would I opt for immediate termination when I am leaving at the end of the month and urgently need both connections till the end of the month?

I sent the letter just before I went to the bank on the day when the English speaking person actually changed my CERTICODE number.

The number was changed to this same number which I was going to close at the end of the month.

And what happens? Several days go by (certainly more than 48 hours) and the CERTICODE number was still not changed. Then I wake up one day I find out that my mobile connection is not working. I receive an email soon that my connection has been terminated. That evening, I also find out (from Internet banking) that the CERTICODE number has been changed to the number that has been terminated.

The electronic change of phone number had not taken place even after several days, but the snail mail went at the speed of sound and the required action was taken immediately. To terminate the account.

I bought another number, a prepaid one. A more expensive option. I tried to recharge it with my French credit card (bank card), but it didn’t work because I can’t receive the ‘security’ code on my mobile and that is because the mobile number that it is sent to has been terminated. I try my Indian credit card, but the payment is not accepted for some unknown reason. I had used the same credit card sometime ago without any problem.

Finally, after some research, I manage to recharge with the bank card through the mobile itself with those hash based codes, an option that does not require the CERTICODE. I make two recharges. One for international calls and one for French calls. It turns out that I can call to India, but I can’t call to a French number because I have no credit in my account. The small amount of credit that the SIM card came with was wasted in trying to call the bank’s customer care. Now I try to make another recharge in the same way, one that will add some credit to the account, so that I can make calls within France.

But this time, the same card is not accepted. I tried for hours, but it refused to work.

The next day, with no other option, I went to a shop and asked for a recharge voucher. That problem, at least, was solved (I hope it remains solved), although at the shop I had to endure some derisive laughter, as if they knew what was going on with me.

So I went to the bank again. To get my new number registered for the CERTICODE service. The same English speaking person this time refused to change the number. He said the counter is closed, though again, others were being served. He, instead gave me an appointment (for several days later) with my bank official. That’s why I have to meet him tomorrow.

I hope it is understandable that, especially given the fact that soon I will be without a job, I am worried about not being able to transfer my savings to my Indian account. I will have to live on that for some time (at least).

But the fire is raging right now. And I am not sure I will be able to keep the appointment.

And it came back this time, once again, after a visit to Paris. And while coming back, guess who came and sat opposite me for most of the journey? In the very corner seat at the end of the coach? The girl who I believe was taking my video on that day a month or more ago on that steep slope. There is a possibility that I might be wrong about this. But in any case, I have come across that girl a few times before on my rare visits out. And as my station came and I was getting ready to get down, she had a mischievous smile on her face, looking out of the window.

I came to to the apartment and found that someone had come in, as an inner door that I had closed for sure, was open.

I drank some water. There was a slight smell that I have come to recognize and I knew what was coming.

And here it is. I am in pain, to put it simply. There is fire inside my body. I want to drink water. But I know as soon as I drink it, it will become worse.

I must say though that I am not sure that it is because of the water. It could be something else. Sometimes it seems to be related to something else. But whatever it is, it is worse than anything I have experienced in India, where I did experience similar things continuously.

And it is not an anxiety attack. I am a veteran of anxiety attacks and I know the symptoms inside-out. I don’t feel any anxiety in that (clinical) sense. I am not even agitated. There is no panic. The only anxiety that I feel is a perfectly rational anxiety about not being able to keep the appointment tomorrow.

All I feel is pure physical pain and fire raging inside the body.

I know that writing this here is certainly not going to help me. It might make things worse. They can always get worse. But I feel it necessary to write it.

That’s why I am doing it.

April 13, 2013

A Prediction of Anguish

Filed under: Uncategorized — anileklavya @ 8:58 am

Ever since the stranglehold of the Congress party was loosened over India, the Indian politics has had a succession of colourful leaders from parties which can’t even be put on a left-right spectrum or be identified with any other ideology, even nominally, though some of them sometimes make some ideological claims or wear some label. Purely for electoral purposes.

It would be foolish (and unwise) to dismiss these leaders and their parties as irrelevant to any serious political analysis, whether pedagogical or pragmatic or ideological or even historical. For these leaders, the leaders of the so called ‘regional’ parties (or other marginal parties) represent their constituencies in a more meaningful sense of the word than, say, Jawaharlal Nehru or any of his family ever represented the Indian population. They (members of the Nehru dynasty) got elected, of course, but why that happened (and keeps happening) is another long story.

Some of these leaders are more colourful than others. I have a kind of a personal Hall of Fame (or Infame, depending on your point of view) to which a small number of them belong. May be I will talk about them in more detail some time later, but I am going to mention one them now.

That one is Mamata Bannerjee. Maragaret Thatcher is still in the news as being the Iron Lady of Britain, but India had so many of them that we can only look with scorn at the US as it tries to elect its first woman President. It has already failed once.

And it is not just India which had women heads of state. Almost all South Asian countries did. Burma is on the track.

If it sounds great, let me spoil the party by pointing out that, of course, there is a catch here. Most of these women leaders were family members of a Great Man who was already in power, in one way or another. Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Pakistan, India and now Burma: the story is the same all over. Daughters and wives most often, but sometimes sisters or even mothers (at a little lower level than the head of the state).

What almost makes me proud is the fact that we even have the case of an unwed lover. At least one that I know of. Perhaps there are others. That makes me smile. With joy, not with sarcasm. Because that is something in Indian society. It is not a cakewalk.

Sorry, sorry, sorry! I just remembered another one. That makes my smile broader, because that case is even more to my liking.

Both of them are in my Hall of Fame. Or Infame, if you like. I prefer Fame, because I don’t see how they are any worse than any of the others.

But there are a few rare ones among these women leaders who got where they were (or are) on their own. As much as any man does.

One of them is Mamata Banerjee.

She is a worthy candidate for the label Iron Lady (in a somewhat different sense), in case you like such labels.

Who is she? She is the nemesis of the Establishment Left in India. At least in the only big state of India where the Establishment Left has a major presence. So major that it ruled that state for more than 20 years. Why it was able to rule that long is another interesting story, but the rule came to an end and the party that dislodged the Communist Party of India (Marxist), commonly known as CPI(M), was not a party that had any presence anywhere in India. It was a newly formed party called the Trinamool Congress. Trinamool literally means the one having origins in the leaves of grass. And for once, the literal meaning is not inaccurate, for the party is as much of a grassroots party as any party in India is, including all the Left parties.

And the reason her party is a grassroots party is because she herself is an untiring grassroots worker. She came up from below. She raised such a storm that the decaying castle of the CPI(M) ultimately collapsed. Neither of the two major parties of India (the Congress and the BJP) could take her place in Bengal after the fall of the (nominally) Leftist government.

I am not the right person to tell her story in detail, but I never cease to be amazed by the reaction to her from various sides.

You don’t like her? Don’t worry. I am not writing a eulogy.

Is she a saint? Is she a revolutionary? Is she a saviour? Of course not. There is hardly any space for such people in today’s India, if there ever was. She is as wily a politician as they come. Her rule today looks hardly any different from the rule of the Left Front. They seem to be twins, politically speaking. Except that she is not much of a Bhadra Lok person, a bourgeois. She can hold her own amongst what are (or should be) called the ‘people’. She is rough and crafty. She is an ambitious politician. There is much that can be said (justifiably) against her. But that doesn’t change the fact that she is a genuine grassroots leader, more than perhaps any other major leader in India today. You can see it as a positive point in her favour or as the living demonstration of the fact that just being a grassroots leader doesn’t make you the perfect leader, if anyone thought so.

And she is always in the news. The media loves covering her.

Oh, they don’t praise her. They don’t even like her. In fact, their feelings towards her sometimes border on hate. Neither does the Establishment (of which the media is a part). And it is not hard to understand why.

Once people (that is, individuals with roots in the leaves of grass) join the Establishment, they change, as any grassroots person knows. So has she, to an extent. But she has a strong personality. So the change in her is less noticeable. Whether that benefits the people she represents in any way or not is highly debatable.

One of the common elements among all the parties that have ruled West Bengal ever since Independence has been that they all had their goon squads. Proper goon squads. Goon squads on a large scale. Almost like storm troopers. And so, one of the common media stories in India (about West Bengal) is about the doings of these goon squads. They fight each other. Some times they join together and fight against the common enemy: the true revolutionary. They performed a great service to the nation in the 60s and 70s.

There is often violence. People get killed.

It happens even in the 21st century and the way that it happens, almost make me appreciate the value of open violence of the 20th century (and of the preceding centuries) as against the covert, ubiquitous, and perfectly normal and civilized-sanitized violence of the 21st century (there are exceptions, of course, such as these goon squads). There always was hope against this kind of old style violence, but there may be none against the kind that we have now and we will continue to have in the future, as far as I can see. We will only have more of this. The hopeless kind.

There have been some such incidents of the old style violence recently and the media has been covering them heavily. But now the media loves these fights even more among the goon squads of the Trinamool Party and of the CPI(M) — I am not an idiot, so I know that not all of them are mere goons — and it loves them because it (and the Establishment) wants both of them gone. Eradicated forever. One, the leftist party that was a kind of a grassroots party in the days gone by. The other, still a grassroots party, though with flexible ideology.

There is business to be done. There are deals to be made. West Bengal has to march in step with the India Shining, Inc. How can West Bengal be left behind even Bihar! Unthinkable!

Neither of the two fighting parties has a place in the Vision 2020, unless they die and are reborn in a 21st century avatar (perhaps that process has already started).

They are Relics Of The Past. They are the Hurdles In The Path To Development. The sooner they finish each other off, the better. If we can do anything to make if fast, we will.

And both of them are actively collaborating with the Establishment. These are days when people don’t worry about digging their own graves. They just look for the earliest Return On Investment. Even these two are not exceptions.

What about my grave? Well, I am already in it, sort of, as you probably know.

Another major news item recently has been an account given by Natwar Singh, the famous diplomat and later a politician of the Congress party. A real true-blue aristocrat by origin, which must have given him better access to the leaders around the world, as it did him to Margaret Thatcher. And not only him. As he tells in the story, which has amused the middle class Indians quite a lot, he had once introduced the (really) infamous Godman Chandraswamy to Maragaret Thatcher at the former’s request, which he points out, was highly unusual. You can read the story elsewhere, but the relevant part here is that the then young and relatively unknown Godman (except to those in high places) not only met the Iron Lady (also relatively unknown then), but so impressed her with his magical tricks that she agreed to meet him again and in the dress and the accessory that he asked her to. At that second meeting, she asked him whether she will become the Prime Minister and when. And he gave answers (according to Natwar Singh) which turned out to be very accurate. The story has an even more amusing ending, which I won’t spoil for you.

I, of course, don’t believe in such things (neither does Natwar Singh), but the story as told by him, if true in details, is quite eery, to say the least.

Now Chandraswamy belonged to another class of colourful characters in India who are often as powerful (sometime more) as the top level political leaders of the country. His devotees (or clients) included Prime Ministers of India, as was the case with many other Godmen, equally infamous. Or Famous, if you like. I don’t.

This is not quite a digression.

One of the recent news items about Mamata Banerjee was about her being taken ill in Delhi. One of the items says that “I am leaving, Delhi is not safe: Mamata Banerjee”. Another one says that “Mamata Banerjee admitted to Belle Vue”:

Chief minister Mamata Banerjee was admitted to Belle Vue Clinic with complaints of body pain, breathing trouble and palpitation after returning from Delhi on Wednesday.

The chief minister was driven straight to the clinic from the airport and was admitted at 4:30 pm. Clinic sources said she was being examined by a medical team led by Subrata Moitra.

Sources said her blood pressure level dipped to 90/65 against the normal range of 120/80.

So what’s this all about?

I know a thing or two about this.

If a charlatan like Chandraswamy can hog the limelight for making a prediction, well, I am in the prediction business too. I write programs that literally ‘predict’ things (on scientific basis too!). Things of much less significance, but nevertheless predict they do. And they are more likely to be useful for the ‘people’. And in a much more humble way.

So here goes. I am going to make a prediction too. But this one is not about Machine Translation. It is about bigger things.

The Establishment has tried to portray dissent as a kind of disease, with the help of a certain kind of ‘scientists’. It has succeeded in those attempts to a large extent. However, dissent still remains. As in the pesky presence of those like yours truly. And, in the eyes of the Establishment, equally pesky presence of the two fighting parties I mentioned earlier.

The Establishment in the 21st century has less patience than it did earlier. It is in a hurry. If it is not enough to portray dissent as a disease, what about literally making it one?

So my prediction is that, in the coming years, more and more of those who qualify for this disease will have symptoms somewhat (or exactly) like those mentioned above.

Sudden attacks of breathing problems. Palpitations. A high level of discomfort in the abdominal region. Inability to sleep due to the level of discomfort. Inability to work. Inability to dissent. And, who knows? probably even worse.

This won’t be the abstract and profound nausea of ‘nothingness’ of the dissenter of the 20th century. It will be very concrete and mundane.

For some, it might become a routine. The essence of their material existence.

All very sanitized. Any blame for unsanitoriness, if any, would lie on the patient.

Before you launch an attack on me for this gloomy prediction, let me say that I have no super powers. I just got ‘lucky’ in being able to make this prediction. And no one could hope more for this to be proved wrong.

But I am almost certain it will be proved right. Even if the Establishment has to cut a part of its Left Arm.

Unless you can do something about it.

Can you, now?

April 4, 2013

Have I Become a Celebrity or What?

Filed under: Uncategorized — anileklavya @ 5:57 am

There was a news item in Indian newspapers that mentioned an incident in the Indian parliament. An M.P., who has been a major actress (quite a good one, among my favourites) in Hindi films, and is also the wife of perhaps the biggest Bollywood star ever. It was reported that as she was walking down the aisle or something, another M.P. brought out a camera and took photographs of her. This led to a major incident where she protested and went even further, saying something along the lines that that person will have to pay for this.

I can understand her feelings, though I was surprised at the intensity of her reaction. For she is both a long time celebrity as well as a public figure, not to mention a high level entrepreneur. One would think that being just one of these will make people used to their photos being taken.

After the Delhi gang rape case, there has been a talk of tougher laws and they are in the pipeline. Rough justice meanwhile has already been meted out to one of the accused.

One of the suggestions for tougher laws, I gather, includes stalking.

I can understand some of the suggestions, but stalking? Now that’s something I am extremely familiar with. Because I have been living with it for the last more than a decade. Continuous, relentless stalking.

I thought it had actually been made legal and was considered very patriotic behaviour, and also something that is the height of civic responsibility. The way civilized and cultured people deal with people like yours truly.

Qu’est-ce qui se passe? borrowing words from one of my innumerable stalkers. Are they all going to be put in jail?

I don’t want that.

And when did I become a celebrity?

The first time after writing the last article that I went out to the office, I was walking from the train station to the office building, which is around 2 km (not an exact figure, I have not checked on Google Map). Part of it involves climbing a hill, because the office is on the hill.

And one part of it, on the route that I usually take these days, is a very steep climb. As I was nearing the end of that steep slope, the end being a T point where the road with the steep slope meets (and ends into) another road with a less steep slope, I saw a girl with a camera.

She was taking a video. At first I thought she may be like me, someone who likes to photograph landscapes, and was photographing the road. But the camera was pointed right at me. She must have got the complete footage of my climb. Even as I neared her, she didn’t stop. Finally, only when I started looking sternly at her, she lowered the camera. The place is usually deserted, that is, you rarely come across anyone else, accept perhaps at the usual office timings (coming and going). So, again, no one else was there. As I kept staring at her, she flustered and started walking down the slope. I passed her, then I looked back. She had stopped a few steps away on the sidewalk and was making sure that she had got the footage.

I was born in 1968. It was only in 2005 that I traveled abroad. It was only then that I traveled in a plane. It was only then that I actually saw the inside of an airport. It was only then that my passport was used for the first time.

Somehow, which is a long story, in the years 2010-2011 I had to travel in local flights in India quite frequently, Frequent here being a very relative term. Frequent for a person who had first been on a plane only in 2005. Still, there were quite a few.

Several times out of these, as I would walk into the plane, one or two men sitting somewhere in the front rows (first or second) would almost stand up with a camera in hand and brazenly take a video of me. Not once, not twice. Several times. If you want an exact number, go read a book on statistics. Or watch a football or cricket match.

I looked at them, I stopped (after having experienced this the first time and not having reacted), I glared at them, but they would go on. Only after they had sufficient footage, they would stop.

Similar things happened at airports. At one airport, as I was sitting on a bench, waiting for the security check to start, there was a middle aged couple sitting right opposite to me, at a perfect distance for taking a photo or a video. It was only after some time (some time after sitting down) that I noticed something odd. The man, who was sitting directly opposite to me, had a high end mobile phone. He was holding it in a very odd fashion. But it was not at all odd for what he was doing. He had the camera of the phone directly pointed at me, which required an unnatural way of holding the phone. I say unnatural, because, unlike those men in the planes, he was pretending that he was not doing what he was doing, thought he knew that I knew what he was doing. I took some more time to make sure that he was indeed taking a video of me and then I started glaring at him. I tried my toughest glare, I did my utmost, but the man was shameless. At least 3-4 minutes (possibly more, it seemed like much more, a very long time) must have passed before he actually stopped. He brought the phone near him and pushed the button to stop the recording. He didn’t do this very discretely. All this time, his wife was looking on as if nothing unusual was happening.

But it did not start with my flying (in the) planes, which I knew can be dangerous, thanks to the great man Chomsky.

It started, or at least I first noticed it with my own eyes when I was doing my PhD. As I came out of my hostel room to go the lab, an undergraduate student, standing with his friends and girlfriends. took out the mobile phone and started taking my video. I remember this happening at least twice there.

Qu’est-ce qui se passe? I ask, borrowing words from one of my newest stalkers.

I wish I could believe that the girl found me attractive. That there was love at first sight. That she didn’t want to forget this moment and was therefore recording it for — what do they call it? I forgot the word.

If, by any chance, that is the truth, could she contact me? I would be happy to explore the possibility of starting a relationship. I am desperate for something like that to happen.

But those men certainly not were attracted to me. Or were they? May be they were? Who knows?

I had a short career as an unpaid amateur photographer. Short, partly because it was only in 2005 that I could afford to buy my own camera.

I am sorry. There is a correction. In 2005, I started with a borrowed digital camera that had 16MB memory. It was only one or two years later that I could afford to buy my own.

I mostly took photos of landscapes. Urban and rural and everything else. Not of people. Because of a simple reason.

I would not like someone in the street to stop and take my photo without permission. So, I thought, others may not like that either. And I am certainly not the kind of person who could walk up to people and ask whether they would mind being photographed. I can barely ask a shopkeeper to sell me the thing that I need most urgently right now.

I did violate this principle a few time. Mostly because certain kinds of landscapes always have people. In any case, I didn’t take any close ups or took any photos where my focus was on people.

I wish I were the person who could go up to them and ask them. For keeping people out of photography is losing more than half the battle even before you have started. But I am not, so I don’t photograph people as far as I can.

These people are not like me. They are working for a higher cause. They don’t bother with trivia and externalities like the Golden Rule. They don’t have to take my permission. Either for stalking, or for taking photographs or videos. They just do it. They have a duty to their society. To the world. To the Humanity.

I am sorry again. They are concerned about such trivia. Numerous kinds of trivia. Truckloads of trivia. Trainloads of trivia. But all that does not apply to the case of your truly.

But what do they need my photographs or videos for? Have I become a celebrity?

If so, then where are my photos in newspapers and on television? Why has no one contacted me for an interview?

A public figure?

Okay, so why has no one taken the political comments I have been making seriously?

A high level entrepreneur?

Oh well, then where is my billion dollar bailout? Where are the juicy contracts?

A public enemy?

Send me some of the folk songs composed in my honour. Are there any bounty hunters?

Most wanted?

But I thought I was not wanted at all.

I don’t see any posters on the walls with my picture on them.

Qu’est-ce qui se passe? I wonder at this not so new mystery.

May be it is to have better briefings in the future.

I hope I will not be treated like a ‘chutiya’ the next time.

Or are we just making a movie here?

Then where is my fat paycheck? Am I insured? Who is my agent? When is the premiere scheduled? Am I invited?

Who is the fuck is the director?

And who is looking after the music? I am particularly interested in the use of music in movies.

April 1, 2013

DM21C: The Briefing, Or With O’Brien in Alice’s Wonderland

Filed under: Uncategorized — anileklavya @ 3:45 am

I had been doing some work that could be considered as being at the boundaries of what is commonly understood by ‘activism’, by which I mean that the emphasis is on the morpheme ‘act’ and that the act is implied to be physical, such as taking part in a street protest or ‘organizing’ or ‘mobilizing’ or doing any of the things that many environmental activists do, like handcuffing themselves to something that is symbolically associated with the corporations that are doing their best to destroy the planet’s ecology.

I have had little such participation in ‘physical’ protests.

That statement is grossly unfair to me. I will have to rephrase it. I have had little part in such ‘physical’ (aka ‘real’) protest of the conventional kind, which gets some publicity. Whatever physical protest I took part in, was usually a lonely act with no sympathetic onlookers to notice it and record it. Perhaps I should record them myself.

But not now.

Although I may have had little participation in such protests, I had still been doing something or the other, both at the local and the day-to-day life level and on larger forums. Most of it consisted of some form of writing (or compiling, which I consider to be a very important kind of activity).

The great Epics of human civilizations are, after all, compilations by more than one person, in many (or most) cases by a large number of people.

For example, I had started the Hindi version of ZNet. I selected articles, translated them, I put them together in the form of a website. I got this Hindi version online on ZNet (with the help of those at ZNet). At that time I could not afford to host a website on my own. Later on, as soon as I could, I did that.

It was an utter failure. At least in the conventional sense. For I had hoped that once I start this, many others (or at least a few others) would join me. Not a single person did. Neither in the early stage when it was hosted on ZNet and consisted only of translations of articles already there, not later on. So later on, when I was busy with trying to complete my PhD (along with doing various other things) and was not able to translate many articles, I resorted to a form of appropriation. I tried to find all the progressive, dissident voices on the Internet who were writing in Hindi — they were usually on their own blogs, not commercial content in most cases — and I posted those pieces or articles or reports on the Hindi version (which I called Sah-Sanchar). All the expenses were paid from my meager earnings and all the work was done solely by me. I refrained from including my own articles so as not to be accused of self-promotion. Part of the reasoning behind this (appropriation) was the ephemeral nature of such content. A blog (or a website) is there today, gone tomorrow. So is the content on it. I thought if I collect some of it and put it on Sah-Sanchar, it would be read more (indeed it was) and it would be less likely to be lost. In other words, if I couldn’t succeed in building a lively website with novel content, I could at least run an archive, or a ‘blog aggregator’ (as someone called it, because there actually was a blog aggregating section on this website, quite apart from the hand-collected content I am talking about).

Meanwhile, I was also writing on my own blogs.

There is a joke among Hindi (literary and activist) writers that in Hindi there are more writers than readers. The the commercial world has no place for this kind of writing. A certain corporate friendly version of it is now getting a piece of the pie, but in general, if you write Hindi literature or if you write in Hindi and (in your writing or otherwise) damn the capitalistic system, you have to do it in your own unpaid time. You might, in fact, have to pay dearly for doing that. ‘Pay’ being a metaphor here. How much you would have to pay will depend on how much of a threat you are considered to be by the Establishment. Most are not considered much of a threat and can go along nicely, doing it as a kind of hobby. Others have to risk a lot. In objective terms, it is not very clear what the Establishment might see as more of a threat.

Not all these writers are good, obviously, and not all of them are sincere. Many are just bad hacks and many are in a social circle where doing this is cool, so they do it. That is, as long as they are in that circle. Still, there are many who are good as well as sincere, even if some of them have some shortcomings. Who doesn’t?

Oh, so you are not satisfied with the (lack of) figures. You don’t like ‘many’ and ‘some’ because they are not specific numbers? Alright then, how about 2345 for the first case, 3533 for the second case and 1678 for the third case? Does that make you feel better?

The conditions are such that these writers (remember that, in many senses, I am like them, in fact, I am one of them) are desperate to get published somewhere. (Although, in my case, I have never really tried to get published, with an exception or two).

That is partly the reason why there were (perhaps still are, though I am a bit out of touch for some time now) a large number of Hindi literary magazines, most of them with very progressive, anti-right-wing, anti-capitalism agendas. They have no commercial success. Even the most successful one among them barely manage to survive.

I could go on about this, but the point I making here is that there are a large number of such ‘progressive’ (with and without quotes) and even revolutionary writers who would like to get published somewhere. Almost anywhere. Without expecting a remuneration. Many of them do translation too.

However, as I said, not a single person came forward to contribute to the Hindi version of ZNet. Neither as a translator nor as a writer. I had even created a form based submission system for those who wanted to submit articles or translations. The site, however, is still read a lot, at least by the standards of readership of Hindi articles by dissidents.

It was only after reconciling to the fact that no one was going to join me, that I started taking articles from elsewhere and posting them on Sah-Sanchar (with attribution, with the writer’s and the source’s name intact and with a link to the original). Then I started getting some pieces sent to me by email. They were not works of art or scholarship, but they started out as worth posting on the website, and I used them. The persons who sent them to me seemed to send them with the implicit request that they be published on the website. They did not, however, explicitly say so. I went along with that, as there didn’t seem anything wrong with it. Till I realized that I was actually being steered in a certain direction, a softer tone, a diluted and Establishment-friendly form of dissidence. Then I decided to stop, though I have not taken a vow about this.

The site still stands. I pay for it. There is no question of a donation based website. If I can’t even get contributions to be published from Hindi writers who are desperate to get published, what is the chance of getting donations to run the website (or anything else for that matter)? There was no way I could even consider the idea. I am referring to it so that some comparisons can be made.

Let me make it crystal clear that I am not against donations based dissident organizations.

By the way, like many others, I have come to the conclusion that my most avid readers are the ones who hate me and what I do the most. They keep an eye on my every move, so to speak. I had once written several posts about Narendra Modi and in one of them I mentioned a story written by him and linked to it. Sometime later, a supporter of him commented on the blog (politely) to correct the link, as it had changed. You can be sure I was not praising the Indian Mussolini.

The Leftists (definitely in India), with all their talk about organizing and mobilizing, have all but lost touch with most of the population, whereas those from the Right (especially from the Far Right) are overactive. It is no coincidence that with all my desire to participate in meaningful protest, no Leftist ever approached me to work with some leftist organization. The closest I came to it was long ago when I wrote an article (about a rally by the Fascists) for the magazine of a well known progressive NGO. That was perhaps my only article that has been ‘published’ in the usual sense.

On the other hand, those from the Right and the Far Right have gone out of their way to approach me and win me over to their cause, or at least to persuade me to look sympathetically at their cause. Some have even worked with me for considerable time (professionally, not politically). I was not always able to identify them as being so, because they often came spouting left wing rhetoric and quoting Chomsky, briefed as they were about me, Again, going out of their way to do that. My interactions with those from the Right and the Far Right have been like: With O’Brien in Alice’s Wonderland.

Anyway, those days it so happened that I came across many articles that lamented the fact that not many people are actually participating in activities (preferably ‘physical’, conventional acts of protest, as I mentioned earlier). They are, for example, spending their time ‘preening on their Facebook pages’. I wasn’t active on the Facebook, but, who knows!, what I was doing might be considered preening by some. So I thought, if no one would join me, what if I try to join the others? And participate and contribute in that way.

While reading articles on ZNet, I came across one that mentioned one Indian (dissident) website and praised it for the good work it was doing. As I know of few such websites which publish not just articles or pieces by people who consider themselves (literary) writers, like yours truly, but actually do some field work and publish the results of that work. Even if that work is just a study (involving specific entities and specific numbers).

So I went to this website. I read some of the things they had published. I did not find anything that could upset the Indian Establishment. It mostly had articles (not very good ones at that) which were kind of mild criticism of some of the things that are going on. Which is not to say that such things are not worth doing, but just to give you an idea of the kind of content they had. Still, being somewhat desperate to be able to actually contribute something that the real activists would consider worthwhile, I thought it would be better than nothing. And my contribution would be contributions. If it helps at all, that’s not bad.

I must admit that they do have specific figures and data on their website.

I found a contact form on this website. I filled it up. It asked about the kind of contributions I was interested in making etc. Since, being almost a hermit in the cities, I could not think of any conventional physical kind of contribution I could make, I said that I can contribute to writing, editing and similar activities. I mentioned some of my experience in this regard. After a long delay, I received a response. It was a fine response. It mentioned various ways in which I could contribute. It said, since I was in R&D, my skills could be helpful for them. It was a longish mail from the editors and it looked promising. It even said that “we are always on the lookout for people like you”.

So I replied, saying I could contribute by writing articles, especially on topics related to science and technology and that I could do some editing too.

I then received an email saying that they had one person, a ‘public health activist’ ‘working with an organisation in policy research field’, in the city I was working in at that time. Would I like to work with him?

I was not sure about the public health part (as I wasn’t sure how well I could contribute in that area). The ‘policy research’ part also bothered me. But I wrote back saying I can get in touch with him and asked them how to contact him. I was prepared to learn.

More than a month and a half later, I received another mail, saying that it would be great if I could get in touch with a person (who was an ‘assistant’ of the ‘public health activist’). The mail ended like this:

“Mr X has been briefed about your profile and after meeting him you may also like to further strengthen the collaboration with his group Y.”

I had not written much about my profile on their contact form.

This mail had the alarm bells ringing for me. For the tone of the mail was quite different the earlier ones, or so it seemed to me. I didn’t like the word ‘briefed’ and the couldn’t help noticing that the name of the group (the said Y) sounded suspicious for an activist who I had approached after reading a recommendation on the website of one of the most radical leftist dissident media organizations. It was a name that in India would be associated with the Right, especially if it was the name of an organization. It was Hindu religious word that a genuinely progressive organisation is very unlikely to use.

I had almost lost interest in it by then. Nothing happened for a long time. I almost forgot about it.

But one day, as I was working on my laptop and there was some technical problem that I was trying to solve, I got the call. From the ‘activist’. Not his assistant, who I was supposed to contact, but the group leader himself.

He had a Bengali name. So I was expecting a person with a Bengali accent or someone speaking English. He talked mostly in Hindi, though he said one or two sentences in English, as most educated Indians do, even those who are not from the English medium.

And what Hindi! He spoke like a rough policeman or a rougher wheeler-dealer from near the birth place of Hindi, that is, like a rough-talking Delhi-wala.

He started by asking me whether I was who I was supposed to be (that is, my name) and then he introduced himself. He said that I had approached that organization (which was recommended on the ZNet: note however, that ZNet has a fairly liberal policy about allowing articles to be posted there, so it is not as if ZNet itself had recommended it). I said, yes, I had written to them about contributing to writing and editing etc.

This had barely transpired, when suddenly, almost in the middle of a sentence, he seemed to turn his head to someone else (for the sound changed: you know, the Doppler Effect), presumably to his assistant, and said emphatically, “yeh to chutiya hai”. He said, “he is a chutiya”, meaning me.

Now, ‘chutiya’ is an interesting word in Hindi (and in many Indian languages). Literally, it means ‘the one with a vagina’. But as with all curse words, it is rarely used in the literal sense. It is, however, used in an almost literal sense to refer to those who some now respectfully call ‘homies’ (I noticed this usage in an online comment somewhere, perhaps on YouTube and in response to a film video by or about Pasolini). Like all curse words, it is used much more metaphorically than literally.

The most common metaphorical meaning of this ubiquitous Indian word is roughly the same as a ‘village idiot’. Although, it must be noted, even in this sense, i.e., if you are an idiot who can be easily taken advantage of, you virtually become as good (or as bad) as that most marginal of human beings in conservatives societies like India, namely a ‘homie’. The self-boasting torturer of Afzal Guru, the Kashmiri man hanged recently for his ‘role’ in the 2001 attack on the Indian parliament, used this word for Afzal Guru in this very sense.

But it can also mean many other things.

There is little doubt that he was making this comment about yours truly and it was addressed to whoever was sitting near him at that time. He almost confirmed it later, as you will see.

This was just the start of one of the most bizarre conversations I have had in years. And I had some very bizarre ones over that last two decades.

Since I don’t have a recording (may be someone has) and it is difficult to convey in English exactly what he said (he used very colloquial, slangish Hindi, where the tone and the prosody are extremely important), I try to convey the essence of what passed during this conversation.

But it was basically just a monologue. He did not ask me anything. He did not suggest that I do anything. He did not say anything that could make any sense. It was a conversation whose sole purpose (if it had any purpose at all) seemed to be to warn me against ever trying something similar in future. That is, to try to get involved in such activities.

He weighed (very heavily) upon two main themes. One was about Bill Gates and Microsoft. Don’t ask me what was the relation to public health.

All of what he said was either in the tone with which he said “yeh to chutiya hai”, or (most of it) in an exaggerated faux-conspiratorial tone. He whispered (quite loudly) that Bill Gates was behind everything that was going wrong. He said Bill Gates, through his software, his Microsoft products, was introducing things into people’s computers and was doing horrible things. He went on in this vein for some time.

The second theme was kind of related to public health. He said that the pharmaceutical industry is the most devilish in the world. That it would not stop at any dark deed. That it was indulging in the most horrible acts. He said he had been fighting this industry for a long time. But then he said he had a personal fight against it. “Very personal”, he said, in an even more faux-conspiratorial tone. He said he doesn’t talk about this to anybody. It is his completely personal fight. He said he had been ‘like a vegetable’ for some years. He said (or at least implied) it was not part of his public activities, including his (public health) activism. The way in which he said this to me, I couldn’t help thinking that he had indeed been ‘briefed’ about me, for there are many who considered me (or still do) to be in a vegetable like state. Specifically, there was a time when those looking at me (but not very familiar with me) would have thought me to be in a vegetable like state. They did and they expressed their feelings right in front of me. And there was some truth in it, sort of.

Now, I am no fan of Bill Gates or Microsoft or the pharma industry. After all, a large part of the IT-nerd world refers to Microsoft as the ‘Dark Side’. And the less said the better about the pharma industry. But he was not talking like an activist about them. (What an understatement!).

I don’t think it is necessary to point out that he was talking to me as if he was talking to a ‘chutiya’, a village idiot. Or an idiot in the older sense (often used in world literature), which meant someone suffering from paranoid schizophrenia.

During this monologue, he also said how Bill Gates was flooding the media with lies (and only Bill Gates for some reason) and how you could not believe anything in the mainstream media. By this time I had a pretty good idea what I had got into. So I just hoped to end the call without having to say much. I just said, a bit irritatedly (but still trying to be polite) that, yes, I know, that I read the dissident media (that is, I don’t rely solely on the mainstream media) and that I am aware of such things.

When he had done enough of this ‘chutiya’-repellent talk, directly addressed to a ‘chutiya’ who was aspiring to be an activist, he finally ended by saying this. He said, thank you, Mr. Singh, for giving time to me. He then said that he was sorry that he had underestimated me.

Let me repeat it. He said at the end that he was sorry to have underestimated me. And I couldn’t think of anything to say except that, no, it’s alright. Perhaps I am what he was calling me.

But it was not the first time someone said this to me. Just the context this time was highly unusual, to say the least.

I never heard from him again, or from his assistant, or from that organisation which was recommended on a ZNet article. An article that may not be endorsed by the ZNet team (who I have great respect for, even if I disagree with them about some things), but it was featured on the front page of ZNet. It was not a very good article in any sense. I just relied on it because it was on ZNet front page.

I have many of my articles on ZNet (on my ZSpace page, posted by myself). None of my articles, as far as I know, has ever made to the front page. If it smacks of resentment, so be it, but I can’t see how many of the articles that appear on ZNet front page are better than what I write. Perhaps I don’t have the credentials.

But ZNet is still among the best (if not ‘the’ best). To the best of my knowledge. The majority of articles which appear on the front page are among the best you could find anywhere.

There are numerous other dissident media websites (and organizations) where the Establishment proxies are peddling their ware and getting away with it without a blemish. Some of them (the proxies) lead respectable lives as progressives, and may be even as revolutionaries.

Many of them (the dissident organizations) are playing the role of the court dissident. I could easily name some, but what good would it do, unless backed up with an exhaustive data based study, something that I am not in a position to do right now? The irony (or the tragedy) is that they are prospering (even in the material sense), while ZNet is struggling to survive.

So am I.

As I post this article on the blog, I find that it is now past midnight and the April Fool’s Day has started.

Is this a cosmic sign that he was right after all?

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